ProfessorÂ Robert Irwing Rotberg has penned an interesting, if not controversial, opinion article in US Newspaper Politico which appeared under the headline ‘Going to Kenya is a Dumb Idea, Mr President’.
“To uphold the dignity of his office, and for the good of Kenyans, President Obama should postpone until after he leaves the White House his very understandable desire to visit the homeland of his father”. This sums up the article.
Rotberg’s persuasive arguments hinge on a number publicÂ issues – with at least one item utterly false – shaping the politics of Kenya today.
First, that President Obama’s visit will confer legitimacy to a regime of International Criminal Court (quasi) suspects. Â This is true.
Second, that his visit will Â sully the United States efforts to promote respect for human rights; and, also, offend America’s fight to install good governance and the rule of law. This is true.
Third, that President Obama’s visit will be deeply steeped in inter-ethnic politics, owing to the fact that his father, Barack Obama Sr. came from the Luo tribe and (yet) the current President, Uhuru Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, comes from a tribe that has historically been antagonistic to Luos.
He argues that Obama’s visit will highly offend this delicate ethnic balance. . .“President Obama naturally and appropriately will want to visit his paternal homestead in the Luo heartland. But travelling there will plunge the American president deeply into ethnic politics in Kenya, and do nothing for inter-group harmony in that volatile country.Â Visiting after the end of his presidency would not show such favoritism (whether intended or not) to one side in a divided Kenya. President Obama, deft as he is, needs to avoid putting himself or his office into the middle of any ethnic and electoral animosities that still linger. . .”, writes Rotberg.
On this Prof Rotberg tangentially loses the argument. To imagine, in 2015, that Obama’s visit will be turned into a full-scale Luo-Kikuyu schism, and thus ‘do nothing to intergroup harmony’ (whatever this means) is to expose your intellectual ignorance of ‘contentious issues’ in contemporary Luo-Kikuyu relations in all facets of Kenyan public life.
Fourth, he claims, quite luridly, that Kenya, economically, cannot afford to host President Obama. On this, he argues that it is going to cost some $60 million dollars to pull off the stunt. This, he claims, is because Kenya is literally being overrun by ‘AlshabaabÂ militants, who weeks ago viciously attacked Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya’.
He posits that if the secret service – the elite US specially trained forces protecting the President of the United States could not stop an intruder in Washington DC, how will they do it in Kenya?
Essentially, he claims that with her military and nuclear might, Obama’s safety in Kenya is a tall order for THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Quite fallacious and so untrue.
Finally, he concludes that by announcing the visit several months before it happens and providing the exact dates, Obama has given ample time to world jihadists to plan how to wreck havoc in Kenya.
As he signs off, he quiet correctly observes that because the tour is a one-stop destination, ”Kenya Only”, Obama will be wasting Presidential time.
He would rather have set the tour to rove across a number of African countries. He particularly mentions Malawi (where a former law professor at an American university is attempting to build his impoverished country up from the bootstraps); Nigeria (where a brand-new President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to end corruption) as well as Ethiopia, Botswana and Liberia.
While Rotberg calls himself ‘Africanist’, his opinions are crassestÂ rendition of ‘American exceptionalism’ – the self-evident truth that Americans occupy some exalted pedestalÂ in the international scheme of things – and thus must always be ‘aware’ of its actions: that visiting Kenya, in 2015, is such a ‘dumb idea’.
“As a long-time, dedicated, Africanist, Iâ€™d like every American president to be exposed to Africa, and to wave our flag high in the face of Chinese emblems and Chinese construction projects”. LMAO.
President Obama’s coming to Kenya will indeed confer legitimacy to the government of President Uhuru for the less than 10 hours Â he will be in Nairobi. While revealing the news of Obama’s visit to Kenya, President Uhuru was already ecstatic about this, quipping that the visit was ‘at his invitation’. The government is treating the visit as ‘state visit’.
President Uhuru is selling himself to the world as a ‘vindicated man’. His case at the ICC collapsed before it took off. ICC Prosecutor’s pre-trial brief carried the ‘finer details’ that forced this pre-mature collapse. Unexplained deaths and disappearances of witnesses. Compromised Witnesses recanting their statements. Hostile witnesses.
Curiously, almost all the alleged planners of the 2007/08 post-election violence, especially in Naivasha, Nakuru, Limuru and other ‘regime allied areas’ (where deaths of mostly pro-ODM supporters -majority Luos occurred) during the post poll violence have been employed by Uhuru government which came to power in a disputed, internationally discredited 2013 elections.
They include a number of politicians, mostly from Uhuru’s ethnic Kikuyu community, who lost their seats.
Africog – a Kenyan human rights and open governance NGO – has already sought leave of the ICC Appeals chamber to file Amicus Curiae observations on the government’s non-cooperation with the ICC.
On security of President Obama when he visits, the government will use all state resources to ensure it is a success. The cost to Kenyans will be mind boggling, but it is worth it. The regime needs this visit.
Visit ‘disses’ Kenyans fighting for human rights, good governance and rule of law under Uhuru regime
I attended all hearings of the Security Laws Amendment Act – a set of laws passed in a riotous, disorderly parliament – and hurriedly assented to become law by the president. The court case, by the opposition CORD and several civil society organizations would see a total Â 8 sections declared unconstitutional.
The impact of the laws, had several of its draconian provisions not rendered illegal and unconstitutional, would have had far-reaching consequences on basic human rights and freedoms without helping fight terrorism.
One of the provisions of the law which the judges allowed to stand – and which has been disastrous – was allowing the President to appoint the Inspector General of Police. As students got killed in Garissa University, the Kenyan police command, under the newly appointed police boss, Â debated hours on end on how to stop the siege, which came 10 hours later with 147 students DEAD!
A senator has revealed that the President bypassed a pool of over 400 senior police officers to pick Joseph Boinett and that the recent wave of insecurity, from Garissa to Turkana, where over 54 civilians have also been killed, may be as a result of sabotage within the force. The new police boss is not just incompetent, but, physiologically, also appears so.
Initially, the appointments of Inspector General would have been carried out by the National Police Service Commission, an independent police recruiter now gasping for relevance and survival under Uhuru regime, yet this commission was one of the ‘fruits’ of the 2010 constitution.
Many peaceful demonstrators still have charges in Kenyan courts. A young political science student, Alan Wadi, is still imprisoned. Social activist bloggers like myself and Robert Alai are out on bonds, living one day at a time, in the biblical valleys of the shadows of death. Â An anti-corruption official, Prof Jane Onsongo, is said to have escaped to exile. Civil society is haunted and hunted. Life here is brutish and short, but Obama is coming.
Visit has no bearing in inter-ethnic relations
While Professor Rotberg framed the visit as potentially ruinous for the Kikuyu-Luo relations; as a Luo, this is far-fetched. Here in Kenya, the visit has been framed as ‘business event’. Obama’s hosts will not be the students at the University of Nairobi, whom he passionately addressed in 2006, calling on then political leaders to end tribalism and stop corruption, which he rightly referred to as a ‘cancer’.
Obama is coming to Kenya on Global Entrepreneurship Summit. In Kenya, ‘entrepreneurship’ is synonymous with the Kikuyu. Being that the same community is now controlling the government, Obama’s two destinations in Nairobi, the entrepreneurial forum and state house, will be a Kikuyu affair. So, rather than look at the visit as a Luo coming, which they would not have allowed anyway, many Kikuyus – I mean Kikuyu elites – are viewing the visit as an opportunity for more investments which, in the end, will further their economic domination of Kenya effectively increasing their hold on state power.
To pacify Luos, it has been ‘leaked’ that opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is the de facto leader of the Luo community, will be among ‘dignitaries to receive President Obama’. Odinga is a second generation Luo leader. Unlike his ideological father, the younger Odinga has managed to move Luo politics from far left (where Jaramogi took it in the cold war era) to the centre left. In fact,Â owing to his acclaimed vast holdings in Kenya, the younger Odinga is more like the older Jomo Kenyatta, of course, with no appetite for land grabbing.
The billions Obama will pour to Kenyan business elites will therefore likely end in one of the corporations Odinga owns, or has substantial interest in.
Finally. . .
For sentimental value; the visit is still important. Home is home. It is never a dumb idea to visit home.
Dikembe Disembe blogs on politics. Follow him on twitter at @LeftistPolitics